With over one million visitors per year, Table Mountain is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Africa. Here’s what you need to know before seeing the Cape Town marvel.
Table Mountain is a popular, urban, flat-topped mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. The most photographed landmark in the country, its two-mile plateau summit is flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and Lion’s Head to the west. When combined, the green-covered collective forms a dramatic backdrop of the inviting city. Here’s what to know before you go.
Per the US Embassy & Consulates in South Africa, “The South African Government announced on June 22, 2022, that the remaining COVID-19 regulations have been repealed. Travelers entering South Africa are no longer required to produce vaccination certificates or recent negative PCR tests.”
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Why Is It Such a Big Deal?
In 2011, the already distinct Table Mountain was globally recognized as one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature.” At 3,500 above sea level, it’s located in and overlooks Cape Town, the most surreal port city in all of Africa and easily one of the most beautiful in the world—right up there with Honolulu, Hong Kong, and maybe even Rio de Janeiro in terms of urban mountain scenery. It looks amazing near and far, down below or at the top. It matters because there’s nothing else and no other city like it.
How Crowded Is It?
Table Mountain experiences noticeable crowds (but not horrible) in the morning to downright overcrowding on some afternoons. That goes for both the cable car and hiking trails. That said, there is plenty of room to navigate the flat-top summit, which will allow you to escape some of the crowds in the afternoon or enjoy total isolation in the morning.
Can I Hike It?
Yes! Hiking Table Mountain is a demanding but rewarding experience—like climbing steep stairs (over 2400 feet) for an hour or two (or three one-way, depending on fitness). The oldest, easiest, and one of the most beautiful routes to the summit is Platteklip Gorge, which starts just above the lower cableway station (look for the sign and parking lot) and finishes just to the left of the cableway station and restaurant at the top. Map here: Google | All Trails
INSIDER TIPTo save your knees, many hikers climb up then take the cable car back down.
How Do I Get Tickets?
You do not need tickets to hike up or down Table Mountain but you will need tickets if taking the cable car. Those can be purchased online for $14 one way or $20 roundtrip per person, which is a little less than you’ll pay at the gate. If visiting other areas of the larger Table Mountain National Park, such as The Cape of Good Hope, tickets can be purchased in person at a cost of $20 per person.
Do I Need a Guide?
No—since it’s right next to the city, the mountain is as accessible as it is beautiful. Hiking, sightseeing, and even history lessons are easily done on your own, thanks to well-marked trails, cable cars, and free audio guides. That said, if you want a little more hand-holding and personal service, there are free guided tours of the summit at 10 am and noon every day, and Hike Table Mountain offers several top-rated tours starting at $59 per person.
When’s the Best Time to Visit?
As with most popular tourist destinations, the sooner, the better. My wife and I started our hike at 7 a.m. and didn’t see another person on the trail and only minimal numbers at the top by 9 am. If going by cable car, the first ride starts at 8:30 a.m., which is your best bet for fewer crowds and better camera compositions with less photo bombing.
Where Can I Get the Best Photo?
At Table Mountain, there is no postcard or singular social media favorite spot from which to shoot. But you can get creative. Shooting to the north with Cape Town in the background can be a great shot, depending on lighting, but so is the overlook of the Atlantic Ocean to the west. If hiking, there are also several wonderful shots between several narrow canyons and boulder perched ledges.
What's the Best Thing to Do While There?
Gawk at Cape Town, one of the prettiest cities in the world. There are dozens of lookouts at the top of Table Mountain, and each is worth visiting for a full view of life below. There are several paved and unpaved pathways to wander, a cafe to enjoy, and a modern cable car station to ease the burden of climbing or descending 3,500 feet. As you might imagine, the view from above is wonderful and worth lingering for.
What's the Bathroom Situation Like?
Good. There are bathrooms at both the Lower and Upper Cableway Stations, so you won’t need to plan too far in advance. Even while hiking, you can largely space your visits accordingly, thanks to toilets at both the top and bottom.
How Long Should I Stay?
If taking the cable car, two to four hours would be ideal. If hiking, plan on six to eight hours, depending on fitness and how much time you want to explore from the flat-top summit.
Is It Wheelchair Accessible?
Yes—the cable car features doors wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and the viewing windows are low enough to enjoy the scenery as the car travels up. Once at the top, there are lifts to transport to the docking station plus two paved walkways (Dassie and Agama) with 360-degree views of Cape Town. Additionally, The Table Mountain Café has wheelchair ramps, wide aisles, and disabled toilets.
Is There Food Nearby?
Yes. The Cable Mountain Cafe sits, and the top and is well-rated but pricey, according to locals. It’s a wonderful place to relax after exploring, however. If you are interested in something closer to the bottom, The Con Brio Bistro also comes highly rated. But since the mountain is within the city, there are a lot more places nearby if neither of those options appeals to you.
What Else Should I Do in the Area?
It would be a shame not to visit wider Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park before or after your summit to the top. Notable highlights include Clifton Beaches, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (one of the best in the world), Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and colorful Bo-Kapp cooking tours. For more outdoor hiking, head to the well-rated Kogelberg Nature Reserve.